Frequently Asked Questions About Long Island, NY

Bar Beach, Long Island, NY
Linda Tagliaferro

Are you new to the area, or just interested in finding out more about the sprawling sands, Gold Coast mansions, things to do, geology, and more of Long Island, NY? Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions.

Where Is Long Island?

Long Island is part of New York State. Viewed on a map, the island resembles a big fish that swam right up to continental New York. The "tail" of the fish on the East End comprises the North Fork and the South Fork, which are separated by Peconic Bay.

Long Island's beautiful South Shore beaches lie on the Atlantic Ocean, and its North Shore faces Long Island Sound. You can see Connecticut in the distance. Some of the barrier beaches on Long Island's South Shore, including Long Beach, Jones Beach, and Fire Island, are famous for their powder-fine sands. The East River lies between Long Island's western flank and Manhattan.

Is Long Island Really Long?

Fish-shaped Long Island stretches out for about 118 miles. At its widest, it measures over 20 miles. It is the largest island in the contiguous United States. "Contiguous" is a fancy word meaning "very close to" or "connected to." (Puerto Rico and the state of Hawaii's Big Island are both larger in area than Long Island, but they are not right next to the continental part of the United States.)

What Is the Highest Elevation?

Don't get out your mountain climbing gear or expect to ski down sheer slopes on Long Island. This isn't exactly the Himalayas. Most of Long Island is flat as a pancake. The highest elevation on Long Island is at Jayne's Hill (a.k.a. High Hill), which rises to an underwhelming 400 feet above sea level in Suffolk County. Be thankful that you won't get a nosebleed scaling the heights of Jayne's Hill.

How Was It Formed?

Massive continental glaciers once covered Connecticut, carrying huge amounts of boulders and soil that were deposited to the south after the glaciers melted. "The result is a deposit called till," explains Alden, "a mixture of everything from clay to house-sized boulders."

You can see some boulders which are glacial deposits at the beach at Garvies Point Preserve. For an in-depth look at Long Island's geology and archaeology, consider visiting the Garvies Point Museum, which features exhibits about the geological and early cultural foundations of Long Island.

Is Brooklyn Part of Long Island?

Well, yes and no. Brooklyn is geographically on Long Island's western flank. But are Brooklynites Long Islanders? No, because politically, Brooklyn is part of New York City. So geographically, Brooklyn is part of Long Island, but people from Brooklyn are not Long Islanders. That name relates only to people from Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Is Queens Part of Long Island?

The answer to this is the same as the one about Brooklyn: Yes and no. Queens is the largest of New York City's five boroughs. Although it physically sits on the western flank of Long Island, it is not politically part of Long Island. People who live in Queens are residents of New York City. They pay NYC taxes, vote in NYC elections, and do not pay Long Island property taxes or vote in their local elections, no matter how far east they may live. So Queens residents are not Long Islanders.

Where Is the Border Between Queens and Long Island?

The border between Queens and Nassau can be a bit convoluted, as you can find some streets where one house is considered part of Queens, New York City, but the house next to it might be considered part of Nassau County, Long Island.

A New York Times reporter wrote an excellent article entitled The Defining Line on these sometimes blurred borders, where one house might have a front yard in Queens, but a backyard in Nassau!

Strange things sometimes happen on the borders between Nassau County and Queens. For instance, Floral Park features areas that are part of Queens, NYC, and other areas that are part of Long Island.

Some parts of Eastern Queens have a decidedly Long Island ambiance, and they're not so far from the lovely Long Island beaches on the South Shore. But residents of Queens --no matter how far east-- are residents of NYC. Queens residents, no matter how close to Nassau, have to pay non-resident fees on many Long Island beaches -- even if their next door neighbor officially resides in Nassau County.

Is It Better to Live in Queens or Long Island?

It all depends on what you're looking for. Queens residents might point out that their property taxes are not as high as those for homeowners in Long Island's Nassau and Suffolk Counties and that their commute into Manhattan is shorter.

Long Islanders might counter that they have free or cheap access to many beautiful beaches, parks, and other outdoor areas that charge fees to non-residents.

What's the Best Place to Live on Long Island?

Again, that all depends on what you're looking for. Some people prefer the beach-lined South Shore, while others enjoy the North Shore with its history of fabled Gold Coast mansions. Nassau is closer to Manhattan, but Suffolk County includes places like the East End where celebrities live in estates in the Hamptons and surfers enjoy riding the wild waves at the beach in Montauk.

How Many People Live in Nassau County?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 201 statistics, there are 1,369,514 people living in Nassau County.

How Big Is Nassau County?

Nassau County has an area of about 287 square miles.

Where Is Nassau County?

Nassau County lies west of Suffolk County and east of Queens County, NYC.

Where Is Suffolk County?

Suffolk County is located on the eastern part of Long Island. (Once you reach the East End, the next stop is Europe.)

How Big Is Suffolk County?

Suffolk County spreads across approximately 1,000 square miles --- two-thirds of Long Island--- and measures 86 miles long and 26 miles at its greatest width. It is one of the largest counties in New York State.

How Many People Live in Suffolk County?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2010 statistics, there are 1,492,953 people living in Suffolk County.

What Attractions Are There on Long Island, NY?

There are many attractions including the fabled beaches, the Hamptons, Belmont Race Track, home of the Belmont Stakes (the last leg of horse racing's Triple Crown along with the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness), and much more. Plus, there are plenty of family-friendly activities.

Do You Need a Lot of Money to Live There or Visit?

If you're planning on living in the Hamptons, bring loads of cash. But Long Island is like any other area of the United States. There are luxurious areas as well as more affordable towns.

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